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Machshavot HaRav: Reflections from Rabbi Waxman


Out of Chaos Light: Hope For Our Time


In an essay entitled “Cosmos and Chaos”, the late Rabbi Neil Gillman, for many years a professor of Jewish philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary, observed that the opening narrative of the Torah, Genesis 1, “does not tell us that God created darkness. What God does create is light, separating out light from the prevailing darkness.” It is ironic that while reading this on Tuesday afternoon that the lights went out. Earlier in the afternoon, we had some wind-driven momentary outages, but then sometime around 3, the lights went out for an extended period. (We suspect the fallen tree blocking Edgewood, a quarter of mile down the street, was the cause.) Fortunately, despite an estimate by the power company that we would not have power until 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday—kudos to my brother-in-law who was able to reach PSEG’s website and shared this information with us--, sometime around 2 a.m., the power came back on. Yay!. Alas, that didn’t mean our triple-play of phone, internet, and television returned, as well. It is sobering to think about the extent to which we are so dependent on these connections to do our work and to be in touch with others. (They returned Wednesday evening, after yet more, albeit only 45 minutes or so, outages.)


But let me return to Dr. Gillman’s short essay which appears in his collection, Traces of God: Seeing God in Torah, History and Everyday Life. He goes on to write: “That tensions between cosmos and chaos remains indelibly part of our day-to-day existence...inevitably, chaos erupts…we have not succeeded in creating a totally ordered social structure; nor has God banished the forces of chaos. We recall then that God did not abolish the darkness but put it in its proper place.”


Dr. Gillman’s words ring true as we recover from the winds of Isaias. We are most grateful for the restoration of light; but the blows of the tropical storm remind us that chaos has an unexpected way of altering our lives. We have seen it over the past few months with the pandemic; and now we were given a sharp reminder through the winds of a fast-moving storm. We hope and pray that it will be the light of the cosmos that will prevail rather than the chaos of darkness.


Shabbat shalom






Chadashot MeYisrael:  News From Israel


Pomegranate Oil: A Weapon Against Neurodegenerative Disease


Pomegranates are one of the new super-foods. The fruit is packed with antioxidants and vitamins. Now Israeli researchers have discovered that a supplement derived from its seed oil is helpful in improving cognitive function in multiple sclerosis patients. Professor Dimitrios Kaurussi, the director of the MS Center at Hadassah found significant improvement in learning ability and text comprehension in a study involving 30 patients who took GranaGard supplements.


It would appear, per the research, that the supplement while not a cure, that nerve cell damage is irreversible, that it prevents or at least slows neurodegeneration and may even reduce some of the symptoms caused by the disease.


The background to this latest development is to be found in the work of Ruth Gabizon, an experimental neurologist at Hadassah. Several years ago, she wondered whether punicic acid, a key component of pomegranate seed oil, might help her engineered lab mice, which were predisposed to developing a fatal neurodegenerative disorder. To enable the oil to get pass the liver, she turned to nanotechnology to break the oil into nano-drops that could easily travel through the bloodstream. The formulation was so successful that Gabizon and Shlomo Magadassi the nanotechnology expert, formed Granaliz Biotechnologies to market the formulation as a supplement.


Gabizon explained how the supplement works: “In the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases, the mitochondria—the energy center of the cell—is stressed. The antioxidant restores mitochondrial activity to a normal level.”


Human trials in Alzheimer patients are now planned: a year-long study on cognitive impairment will be undertaken at the Memory Clinic of Rambam Hospital in Haifa. A further study is in the works for MS patients with early memory impairment.


The supplement is available in a select number of Israeli pharmacies but also through the Granalix website, through distributors in South America and Europe.






Payrush LaParashah:

 A Comment on the Weekly Torah Portion


The portion of Aykev (Deuteronomy 7:12-9:3) is read this Saturday, August 8th.


8:7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; (8) a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; (9) a land where you may eat food without stint, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are from iron and from whose hills you can mine copper.


8:9 a land where you may eat food without stint… There are lands in which the inhabitants obtain their bread through hard work and drudgery, not so with regard to the land that the Lord is giving you, where the fruits readily ripen and because of its fertility and its location in the world there are great possibilities for commerce and for wealth. (Rabbi Chaim Dov Rabinowitz, Da’at Soferim. Rabbi Rabinowitz was born in 1909 and was the son of the rabbi of Isoblin in the Grodno district of Lithiuania. He studied under Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman and later Rabbi Shimon Shkop who granted him semichah, rabbinic ordination. He married Soroh Rivka Bronrot, whose father served as the head of the Tel Aviv rabbinic court. In 1937, Rabbi Rabinowitz moved to Tel Aviv, where he directed the Ohel Yaakov Talmud Torah, the first ultra-Orthodox school in that city. After the creation of the State of Israel he worked on behalf of the immigrants in the transit camps. He recounted some of his efforts in his book Nachal HaDema'ot [The River of Tears] He also authored a volume on life in pre-state Tel Aviv entitled HaTefillin Shel Naftali [The Phylacteries of Nafthali]. His major work was Da’at Soferim [or in Ashkenazi Hebrew Da’as Sofrim] which is a commentary, based on the medieval Jewish commentators, on the entire corpus of the Hebrew Bible. The volumes have been translated into English. He went on to write commentaries on Midrash Tanchumah, an early compilation of rabbinic comments on the Torah. Prior to his death he had published his commentary on the first three volumes of the Torah; an uncompleted commentary on Numbers was at the time of his death in manuscript form. Additionally, he wrote From Nechemiah Until the Present, which is part history and part primer of moral lessons to be derived from various periods of Jewish history. This, too, has been translated into English. Mention should be made of his volumes on the yeshivot of Eastern Europe. For a number of years, he delivered Talmudic lectures at the Telshe yeshiva in Cleveland but returned to Israel later in life. He died in Israel in 2001.)






Questions for Aykev 5780 (Deuteronomy 7:12-9:3)


  1. What are some of the blessings to be granted to Israel for fidelity to God?
  2. What are the diseases of Egypt?
  3. What proof does Moses offer that God will intervene?
  4. What rationale is offered to explain the gradual conquest of the land of Israel? Does this reflect the historical reality or does the blitzkrieg of the Book of Joshua?
  5. What sin repeatedly concerns Moses? Did he have good cause to be concerned? (Hint: for starters skim through the Book of Judges.)
  6. In chapter 8 the wilderness years are reinterpreted. How so?
  7. In context what is the meaning of “man does not live on bread alone?” How has it been otherwise understood?
  8. How is possible that their clothes didn’t wear out in the course of 40 years? What about the clothing of the children who grew up: what became of their clothing?
  9. What are the 7 classic species of the land of Israel/? Is the reference to honey a reference to bee’s honey or to date honey?
  10. Did ancient Israel ever have a mining industry of copper and iron?
  11. Verse 8:10 serves as the basis for what Jewish practice?
  12. About what is Moses warning in 8:17? Is this a continuing problem in our own day? 
  13. Who are the children of Anak?



Wed, August 12 2020 22 Av 5780